Ready for the Essentials

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BY REV. DAN MILLER |

This past July, I was privileged to be invited to Camp Hope, the Moravian camp in Hope, NJ, to lead programming for the senior high camp. I know you didn’t come to this blog to read about camp stories from me, but if you stick with me until the end, I promise there will be something there for you.

Camp Hope’s senior high camp has a planning committee made up of a select group of youth, which is similar to other Moravian senior high camps and Regional Youth Councils. As their name suggests, this group is responsible for planning many aspects of camp, part of which includes selecting an initial idea for the camp’s program and selecting someone to carry it out. When the planning committee came to me with the invitation to do the camp’s program, they explained their program idea. They wanted to know more about the “Moravian Motto” – In Essentials, Unity, In Nonessentials, Liberty, In All Things, Love. They said they knew the motto, but they didn’t know about the first part of it. Their question was simple: if we’re supposed to be united in the essentials, shouldn’t we know what those essentials are?

Yes, that would be important.

So, I set to work creating a program centered around the Essentials first laid out by our Moravian ancestor, Luke of Prague, and most recently reaffirmed by the Northern and Southern provinces at their most recent synods – God creates, God redeems, and God blesses, and in response we live with faith, love, and hope. Since camp always has a fun side to it, I wrapped it up in a survival-theme, because when else does anyone think of what is essential to living until they are alone in the wilderness trying to survive with nothing? Before I knew it, the theme morphed into Survivor, like the popular TV show. But using this theme didn’t quite fit with the Essentials because we don’t simply want to survive as a Christians, we want to thrive. Hence, the name of the program was changed to be called Thriver: The Essentials. The logo was the finishing touch before the program was unveiled at camp.

Thriver logo

The logo for Camp Hope’s Senior High camp program, inspired by the popular TV show, Survivor.

It wasn’t until the third day of camp that the six Essentials themselves were unveiled, and once they were, there was no going back. I was amazed at how quickly the camp soaked this up. Within minutes, everyone knew what the Essentials were. I could almost read the campers’ thoughts as I saw their faces light up – “There’s only six of them? Live with faith, love, and hope? I can do that!” Evening vespers were filled with praises directed towards one of the three God Essentials (i.e. Creator, Redeemer, Blesser). Small group discussions began filling up with conversations about people, things, actions, and events and how they point towards or away from faith, love, and hope. Campers were talking about the program outside of program time. (There’s something so wonderful about hearing conversations about the Essentials in line for dinner and in the pool.) The Essentials were quickly embraced, lived out, and manifested with new flesh and blood. Everyone at this camp was so ready for the Essentials.

Rev. Cynthia Rader Geyer leads a prayer

A body prayer was led each day before program by Rev. Cynthia Rader Geyer to prepare ourselves to receive the Essentials.

So why am I sharing about camp on this blog? I’m sharing this to let you know that the next generation is so ready to know about the Essentials. Children want to know that they are created, redeemed, and blessed by God not because of how much they know or how much they are able to do, but because of God’s love and grace. Youth want to know that there are so many unique ways that they can live with faith, love, and hope. College students want to know what makes them a Christian when they don’t have the chance to see the people and the place that they had associated with being a Christian for so long while growing up.

So teach the Essentials in your Sunday School and confirmation classes. Make them explicitly a part of your worship. Lead some kind of discussion curriculum about them. Be intentional about including them in a name of a group, the title of an event, or even a mission statement. Write them in the bulletin. Put them on Facebook.

A small group at Camp Hope pray together

A small group prays together as they each stand in a valentine from God made to represent one of the Essentials: Love.

Do something to spread the word about the Essentials because the next generation, and for that matter, all people, are ready…

They are ready to be loved and accepted completely as individuals who have unique talents, shortcomings, experiences, interests, insecurities, and dreams.

They are ready to give themselves to a movement, a cause, a purpose, and a Savior that is bigger than themselves.

They are ready to come together and unite with others to show the world faith, love, and hope.

They are ready for the Essentials.

May we be ready to share them.


About the Author

The Rev. Dan Miller

Photo courtesy of Rev. Dan Miller

Dan Miller (revdanmiller@gmail.com) is the pastor of Edgeboro Moravian Church in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. He serves on the Interprovincial Board of Communication and the Moravian Theological Seminary Alumni Board. Dan is the co-creator of Moravian Church Without Walls (MCWW), a creative “think tank” for online ministry, which has most recently produced the MCWW Daily Text Podcast Series. Find it at anchor.fm/mcww or wherever you get your podcasts.


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